Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead is a Mexican holiday celebrated throughout most of Mexico, mostly in central and southern Mexico. It is a day to celebrate the life and death of our loved ones. Many of the Mexican families in our community celebrate Dia de los Muertos, and the significance of sharing in this celebration of culture for our entire community promotes unity and belonging. Celebrating cultural heritage is important in uniting communities and developing a sense of belonging and appreciation for culture in our community.
A Tradition Created
The event has grown in size every year over the past 5 years because more and more community members come each year to celebrate the diversity within our community. Over 500 community members attended the event this year!
This event is not just important for our community but also for our school district, because over the last decade the number of Hispanic and Latino students at our schools has grown. It is now about 30% which is about ⅓ of our population. We look for opportunities to celebrate our growing diversity in our schools and bring diverse cultures together because it is important to us to build belonging in our district. Dia de los Muertos is one event that allows for this. The festivities are held in our high school commons, which is important because our school district is the hub of our community. It is a place where members of our community gather and where people can come together and feel a sense of belonging within our community. It is important to us that the school district act as a catalyst that unites people and brings them together in celebration.
Culturally Responsive Teaching
The largest challenge facing our district today is closing the achievement gap for our Hispanic and Latino students. We are working hard as a staff to close this gap because we believe in Excellent Educational Experiences for Every Student in Every Classroom Every day. This is our vision, and while this achievement gap between our students remains, we are falling short of this vision. That is why this year we have identified 5 major improvement strategies to improve this including becoming culturally responsive teachers. What does being culturally responsive mean?
I appreciate the quote from Zaretta Hammond in her book Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain that states, “All teaching is culturally responsive, it is just a question of whose culture is is responding to.” Culturally responsive teaching is recognizing students’ ways of meaning making which is formed from cultural knowledge and their personal Worldview. The culturally responsive teacher understands the importance of being in a learning alliance, which is much more than just building a positive relationship, and responds positively and constructively with teaching moves that build independent learning. Check out these great videos on an Edutopia post to learn more!
In large part the success of the Dia de los Muertos event was due to the Organizing Committee of dedicated Latino parents and staff members José Almeida, Sue Strom, Alicia Rochambeau, and Adriana Hoschtetler. This is a community event organized by some of our very hard working and dedicated families within our community. Families for which we are very grateful! They meet months ahead of time to plan the decorations, food, and music for the event.
It also could not happen without the monetary support of many sponsors. The Village Thrift Shop, Town of Estes Park, Estes Park Elementary PTO, Estes Park Education Foundation, The Mex-Kal Family Mexican Restaurant, Chelito Mexican Restaurant, Poppys Pizza and Grill, McDonalds, and Sweet Basilico.